How to make Vietnamese summer rolls – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s Masterclass

<span>Photograph: Robert Billington/The Guardian. Food styling: Loïc Parisot.</span>
Photograph: Robert Billington/The Guardian. Food styling: Loïc Parisot.

Though I enjoy a spring roll as much as the next fried-food fan, the freshness of the Vietnamese summer version has my heart, especially if I’m the one preparing it. Fun to make and easy to adapt to suit different tastes and diets, it’s fortunate they’re so healthy, because once I start rolling, I find it very hard to stop.

Prep 20 min, plus cooling time
Cook 25 min
Makes 8

150g pork belly, rind removed (optional – see step 1)
16 large prawns, preferably raw (optional)
1 lemongrass stalk, crushed
200-225g packet rice vermicelli, or other rice noodles
8 rice paper wrappers
2 Chinese or ordinary chives, cut into 10cm lengths (optional)
4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves picked
4 sprigs fresh coriander, leaves picked
4 sprigs fresh perilla, or Thai basil, leaves picked (optional)
1 carrot, peeled and grated
¼ cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks
1 soft lettuce, ½ shredded, the rest separated into leaves
4 tbsp roasted peanuts (I like salted), roughly chopped

For the dipping sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 garlic clove
, peeled and crushed
1 bird’s eye chilli, finely sliced

1 A note on the protein

Although commonly made with pork (leftover roast would also work well), feel free to substitute cold cooked chicken or firm or fried tofu; just make sure everything is cold, dry and sliced thinly enough to fit easily into a roll. If using cooked prawns, skip step 3 and instead cut them in half lengthways and remove any shell.

2 Poach the pork

Put the pork in a pan that’s just large enough to hold it widthways and cover with cold water. Add a tablespoon of salt, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 20-25 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through (check the centre, because the exact timing will depend on its thickness). Remove, pat dry and leave to cool, then slice thinly.

3 Poach the prawns

Peel and devein the prawns, if need be. Fill a small pan with water. Crush the lemongrass lightly with the flat of a knife, drop this into the pan with a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Drop in the prawns, turn down the heat and poach for two minutes, until pink. Drain, then cut in half lengthways.

4 Cook the noodles

Put the noodles in a large bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Add a half-teaspoon of salt, leave for about four minutes, until al dente, then drain, rinse well under cold water and drain again, shaking the colander until the noodles are thoroughly dry. (If using a different shape of rice noodle, you may need to cook them for longer, so check the label for instructions.)

5 Get ready to roll

Set out all the ingredients within easy reach of a clean, dry chopping board (if you can’t get hold of all the herbs listed, make up any shortfall simply by using more of whatever you do have). Get a bowl that’s big enough to hold one of the rice wrappers, half-fill it with cold water, then dunk in a wrapper and keep patting it in the water until it’s pliable, but not completely soft.

6 Start filling the wrapper

Shake off any excess water and lay the wrapper flat on the board. Arrange two crossed chives, if using, horizontally towards the bottom edge of the wrapper (or use a few leaves of one of the herbs you do have). Top with four prawn halves in the same horizontal line, then top these with a line of herb leaves.

7 Finish the stuffing

Add a pinch of grated carrot and a few cucumber sticks, some of the sliced pork, if using, and a small clump of the rice vermicelli. Finish with some shredded lettuce and a line of crushed peanuts. (Note: you can adjust these fillings as suits you, leaving out the nuts, for example, and adding sliced chilli or shredded cabbage, pineapple etc.)

8 Roll up, roll up

Bring the bottom edge of the wrapper tightly up and over the filling, then fold in both sides over the top. Roll up tightly, place join side down on a plate, and cover with a whole lettuce leaf to keep it from drying out. Repeat with the rest of the wrappers, filling and lettuce leaves. For the sauce, whisk the sugar into the lime juice to dissolve, then add the remaining sauce ingredients, taste and adjust accordingly.

9 Or prep everything and roll later

Though these are best prepared just before eating, so they’re as fresh as possible, you can prepare everything up to step 5 ahead of time; you can also make the dipping sauce in advance. Assemble to serve, or set everything out for people to make their own rolls according to taste.

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